A Look Ahead: Big 10 Hoop Foes For 08-09

Now that Hawkeye Nation has had a few days to digest the news that Tony Freeman will not be with the program next year, some are daring to ask the following question: What will life be like for Iowa next year on the hard court? With or without Freeman, 2008-2009 was slated to be another rebuilding year. Just how much is Iowa losing from this year, and what about the rest of the league?

Now that Hawkeye Nation has had a few days to digest the news that Tony Freeman will not be with the program next year, some are daring to ask the following question: What will life be like for Iowa next year on the hard court?

With or without Freeman, 2008-2009 was slated to be another rebuilding year. With Freeman now out of the mix, Iowa will lose 64.7 percent of its scoring from last year, a season where scoring was hard to come by; Iowa averaged just over 56 points per game.

Outside of Indiana and their massive crimson and crème blood letting in the wake of Kelvin Sampson's scandalous tenure, Iowa returns the fewest percentage of points and rebounding of any team in the Big Ten, and that's on the heels of a 13-19 season.

No one ever said life in the post-Steve Alford world was going to be easy, but then again, it wasn't always easy to swallow when he was here. (For those of you scoring at home, that will be the Alford slam for this article. And if you took the under on ‘the fifth paragraph' in your pool as to how quickly I'd go that card, time to collect.)

Here's how the rest of the Big Ten looks on paper right now for next year, in order of this past season's finish. This may help give you an idea of the challenges that await next year's group of fresh-faced Hawkeyes:

WISCONSIN: The Badgers have been in a different stratosphere than Iowa during the Bo Ryan era and likely will be again next year. They lose inside players Brian Butch and Greg Stiemsma, plus guard Michael Flowers. That's 25.5 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. Butch finally grew into his high school All American shoes, while Stiemsma stagnated. Butch was the Badgers leading scorer last year at 12.4 points per game. Flowers was very solid with 9.6 per game. Trevon Hughes and Marcus Landry are back for the Badgers. They will bring in a pair of Top 150 centers in Jared Berggren and Ian Markolf, both ranked in the Top 20 at their position. Somehow, someway, Bo Ryan will find a way.

PURDUE: The good news is that Purdue's incoming recruiting class is nothing to write home about. The bad news is that is mostly due to limited scholarships, as the Boilermakers, who went 15-3 in the Big Ten last year, return all but one player, and he was not a key player; Terrance Crump, 9th leading scorer at 4.5 per game. Back are E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, Keaton Grant, and the rest of the house. Scott Martin has decided to leave school, which will certainly be a loss, but they have so much talent on this team. They are your pre-season favorites and Iowa will play them twice.

INDIANA: It's just easier to tell you that Indiana returns just 12.5 points per game, three scholarship players with Jordan Crawford's 9.7 per game being the lion's share of the returning production. Though Tom Crean has been quick on his feet with a decent recruiting class, it won't be enough to stave off a sub .500 year in Bloomington.

MICHIGAN STATE: Drew Neitzel and Drew Naymick are gone, so the Spartans are out of Drew's this year. Neitzel was a 13.9 point per game guard and Naymick was the leading shot blocker in school history. But Raymar Morgan is back, along with Kalin Lucas, who showed flashes of brilliance in the NCAA tournament. If he can play at that level next year, the Spartans could challenge for the title. Goran Suton is back as well. MSU signed a Top 15 recruiting class, which is par for the course. The Spartans will likely finish in the Top Three of the Big Ten.

OHIO STATE: Jamar Butler is gone, along with his 15.0 per game, along with Othello Hunter (9.9) and Matt Terwilliger (3.2). The big wild card here is Kosta Koufos and his decision to stay or withdraw from the NBA Draft. He has not signed an agent at this time. He could always go overseas and sign a multi-million dollar deal with a team from Greece, too. Ohio State has a Top 5 recruiting class coming in next year, including another center that would not have come to college were it not for the NBA rule barring freshmen from turning pro. His name is B.J. Mullens, and he is either #1 or #2, depending on whom you believe. William Buford is one of the best shooting guards in the nation and Anthony Crater is a Top 15 point guard. If Koufos is back, you are probably looking at the fourth place team in the league. Without Koufos, they could still compete for that position.

MINNESOTA: The Gophers won 20 games last year and went 8-10 in the conference. But their top three scorers will not be back; Lawrence McKenzie (11.8), Dan Coleman (11.6), Spencer Tollackson (9.3). That's 32.7 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game. Tubby Smith put together one of the three best recruiting classes in the Big Ten this year with a pair of trees; 6-10 Colton Iverson and 6-11 center Ralph Sampson, III. Yes, the progeny of THE Ralph Sampson. As much as it pains me to say it, I'd be buying Minnseota stock were it available right now.

PENN STATE: While Ed Dechellis has been the butt of many a joke in recent years, he did a great job last year getting the Nittany Lions to a 7-11 league record. Losing Geary Claxton, arguably the best player in the league last year, could have been the final nail in Dechellis' coffin. But his team did not falter. He is gone, but that's about all Penn State loses. They won't challenge for the title, but with Talor Battle, Danny Morrissey and Stanley Pringle handling the ball in the backcourt, they will create problems for teams that are not set at the point (see Iowa). Chris Babb will join the Nits, having picked them over Iowa.

ILLINOIS: Shaun Pruitt (12.6) and Brian Randle (9.4) are gone, but the Illini will get a boost with the return of Jamar Smith, who missed last year after the fallout from his DUI that injured Brian Carlwell two winters ago. But the Illini are a year or two away from getting back into relevance atop the standings; their 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 classes are loaded already.

MICHIGAN: The Wolverines will be in year two of John Beihlein's rebuilding project, after putting up just 10 wins all of last year. They return all six or their top scorers and they add a pair of shooting guards in this class. Those guards are not going to pop out of the screen at you as far as their ‘credentials' coming into college, but they were recruiting to play a system that places a great deal of importance on shooting the three point shot. Michigan should win more than 10 games this year, perhaps 13 to 15.

NORTHWESTERN: The Wildcats went 1-17 last year. Losing five games by six or fewer points. They lose one player of note (for them) who averaged 6.2 per game. It's a pesky team, and one that will improve, but there is certainly a glass ceiling for how much they can improve.

That leads us to Iowa, whom I took out of the descending order from last year. Tomorrow, we will break down the roster, look at projected lineups and production, plus more…

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